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11 Things You Definitely Didn't Know About Tea

The world of tea is unlike any other. It seems to constantly be shifting and changing, with every new twist bringing something new to learn about.

An old Chinese proverb states, “one life is not enough to learn the names of all the teas in China" - but it is also true that one life is not enough to learn every interesting fact about this magical beverage.

1. Oolong tea is also known as Wulong, which translates to "black dragon". It is thought that the tea got its name because children used to be afraid of the black snakes which lived in the tea trees that their parents harvested. To calm the children, the farmers told them that the snakes were actually little black dragons.

2. There are two main stems behind the word for "tea". The first comes from the term “t’e”, borrowed from Min Nan Hua, a Chinese dialect from fujian province. As such, you can find words beginning in the same way in language such as English, German ("tee") and Italian ("tè"). Alternatively, countries where tea was brought by an overland route (e.g. Tibet, Iran, Russia, India) use words beginning with the syllable “tch” or “ch”, borrowed from the mandarin “cha”.

3. Lu Yu, the "Sage of Tea", was adopted by a zen monk from the Dragon Cloud monastery. He then joined a travelling theatre troupe and fled the monastery, instead following the actors as they travelled throughout China. He later became famous for his talents as a tea master and as the author of Cha Jing, the first ever book dedicated to tea.

There's a famous quote from the time that he spread the idea that tea should be consumed without the addition of other ingredients, saying, “these drinks were no better than the rinsing water of gutters.”

4. Tai Ping Hou Qui is a type of green tea from Anhui Province. It is said that a very long time ago, a monkey couple and their baby lived in the Huang Shan mountains. One day, the baby monkey went out to explore the mountain but got lost in a thick fog. His father was worried, so he tried searching for him for several days - however, he soon died from exhaustion in a ditch.

An old man who gathered wild tea in the area came across the monkey’s body, and feeling saddened at the find, he buried him at the foot of the mountain. To honour him, he planted a few tea plants and flowering plants nearby. When he began to leave, he heard a voice whisper, “Sir, I will repay you for what you have done.”

The next spring, the old man returned to the area for the next harvest and found that the mountain was suddenly covered in the wild tea plants. He heard the voice again, which said, “I give you these tea plants so that you may cultivate them and live well.” The man understood that it was the spirit of the monkey. To commemorate this unexpected gift, he named the hill Hou Gang, which translates to “monkey hill”, and the tea Hou Cha, which means “monkey tea.”

Since then, the tea became known as Hou Kui, meaning “the best”.

5. China is the only country in the world to produce all six types of tea.

6. A Gaiwan is the same as a Zhong: the former is the Mandarin term, whereas the latter is Cantonese.

7. It is said that a long time ago, a man and a woman were madly in love with each other. However, they had their happiness shattered by a lord who took the woman as a concubine. The woman was driven half mad by separation and so ran away to rejoin her lover, only to find that the lord had had him killed. When she found his body in the mountains, she wept so much that her tears formed a torrent. In shock, her body was transformed into a tea plant. Today, this is still the explanation given for the year-long humidity and cloudiness of the area.

8. In 1191, the Japanese monk and founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, Myōan Eisai, travelled from China to Japan, taking with him several tea plant seeds. He planted these seeds in Hizen district, in the northern part of Kyushu island, and around the monasteries of Fukuoka. He spread the idea that tea should be used as a medicinal drink, and as such, wrote the first Japanese book on tea. Along with that, he also introduced the Japanese to the powdered tea preparation method which was used in China at the time.

9. Sen No Rikyu created the rules for Chado, Japanese tea ceremony, and raised it to a flawless degree of perfection.

10. Taiwan and Sri Lanka are the only countries to distinguish between high-altitude and low-altitude tea.

11. Senchado is a Japanese variant of Chado, which involves the preparation and drinking of sencha green tea.


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